American Military Partnership Makes Big Hit in The Gambia

EUCOM is really expanding in Africa. US soldiers are becoming cultural links between Gambians and the United States.

The security partnership between the U.S. Defense Department and TheGambia has come in for praise, in part because of a recent visit to the country by soldiers of the U.S. European Command (EUCOM), who shared valuable experiences with their Gambian counterparts.

EUCOM, headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, is responsible for military partnerships with most sub-Saharan African nations.  It organized the March 13-17 visit to The Gambia in cooperation with the U.S. Embassy in Banjul, The Gambia, and the Office of Defense Cooperation at the U.S. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal.

According to the U.S. Embassy in Banjul, the soldiers' conversation centered on operations aimed at helping Africans secure their countries against terrorism as well as counter crimes like illegal fishing and piracy.

The Americans were well received and drew "enthusiastic reactions from the Gambian government and media," the embassy reported....

The event coincided with a successful donation project operated by the Defense Department called the Humanitarian Assistance Program (HAP).  In The Gambia, HAP spurred the donation of excess U.S. property to nongovernmental organizations, including a vehicle, medical supplies and school and office furniture.

Compared to Defense Department partnerships with larger African nations, the overall U.S.-Gambian military relationship is relatively modest -- funded at between $100,000 and $150,000 a year.  The centerpiece of that involvement is the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program, which brings foreign officers to the United States for professional training at service schools.

In 2003, IMET spent more than $11 million to train more than 1,500 African troops from 40 countries in Africa.

This is how we win the "hearts and minds". Why is it being led by the Defense Department?

Security is "a regional problem and requires a regional solution," the admiral said.  "These nations need to protect their natural resources and provide for safety and security to their coastlines."  To that end, he said, the meeting gave the United States "the opportunity to build effective peer networking among the African professionals and strengthen our emerging partnerships with those nations."

Security of the region is important not just to deny sanctuary but also to protect oil and other natural resources. Developing deep partnerships through cultural and public diplomacy is far cheaper than waging war and goes a lot further in the trust deparment.